The NHL has not released a start date for the 2020-2021 season but we now know through sources close to Commissioner Gary Bettman that the Winter Classic scheduled for January 1st in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the All-Star Game scheduled for January 30th in Sunrise, Florida will not be a part of the league’s schedule. The Winter Classic, slated to be played between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues at Target Field, the home of MLB’s Minnesota Twins, will now be played on January 1st, 2022. Michael Russo, a senior writer for the Minnesota Wild’s team website, said “It’s not only because the NHL doesn’t know when the 2020-21 season will start. We’re in the middle of a pandemic and nobody knows yet how many fans would even be permitted in Target Field. Beyond the fact it’s impossible to sell tickets right now, the NHL, Wild, Twins and Sports Minneapolis don’t want to put on this iconic game in front of a half-empty or empty stadium. The Wild have waited years for this event and want to show off the state and make it special.”
Wild owner Craig Leipold and team president Matt Majka spent a number of years working on the logistics and campaigning the NHL executives to get the rights to host a Winter Classic. Majka even pulled the assistance Twins president Dave St. Peter and the awarding of the game came during what was a celebratory 20th season of the franchise. For the Florida Panthers, the loss of the All-Star game means the likelihood it will be a longer wait for the next time around. The NHL most likely will not have an All-Star Game in 2022 as many players will need a schedule break during the season due to the Winter Olympics in Beijing, China. The Carolina Hurricanes were also expected to hold a Stadium Series game in Raleigh, NC schedule for February 20th, though given today’s announcements it may be extremely tentative at best that this event is firm. While we await the announcement of the NHL schedule, there are yet many questions we still don’t have answers to. Are games going to be at home arenas? Will we have fans? Will we see a conference or divisional realignment based on geography? Are we destined for more bubble play? Will the players even want to go through a full season like that? We’ll keep skating in circles until we know.